Saturday, April 1, 2023


The basic story behind No Sudden Move is a layered robbery gone wrong. Set in 1955 Detroit, a pair of criminals (Ronald Russo & Carl Goynes) are hired by an unknown source to retrieve an important document and they soon find that they’ve been set up/used as pawns in a much bigger game. Now Russo and Goynes have to work together to figure out what’s going on all while still trying to make a nice score. From the rarely mentioned Underneath & Lucky Logan, to The Ocean’s films, Soderbergh is at home with the crime caper (as you can imagine - there’s lots of double, triple and quadruple crossing at every turn in the film).

To my surprise, there were a decent amount of (subconscious?) Tarantino-esque moments. From the stacked ensemble cast to specific scenarios - this is the kind of post-Reservoir Dogs/Pulp Fiction movie that would have come out in 1996.

Inglorious Basterds /
No Sudden Move

Reservoir Dogs /
No Sudden Move

It also appears that Soderbergh is tipping his hat to Bill Duke's role in Get Rich Or Die Tryin...

Get Rich Or Die Tryin /
No Sudden Move

At the end of the day this movie is "fine"(?) overall. There's just one aspect that I haven't been able to shake for the last two years...

I don’t know if this is good, bad or a combination of the two - but I saw shades of myself in Don Cheadle’s Goynes. Not the homicidal killer aspect. The just the part about “gettin’ what’s mine” (a phrase he uses throughout the film). I’ve always joked about how if I ever had to turn to crime in order to get money I wouldn’t get too greedy. Just one or two safe scores and then I’m out. A decent amount of momentary life-changing cash to stretch for a while and I’m good. By the time No Sudden Move ends, we learn that was Goynes’ plan all along (at least that’s how I saw it). 

That’s the good part about my relation to Goynes. The bad part is the selling oneself short. By the end of the film Goynes makes $5,000 dollars out of a potential $400,000 dollars. $5,000 in 1955 is a nice chunk of money but $400,000 is obviously better. No matter what year it is. But to get this $400,000 dollars you have to take part in an elaborate risky plot. The thing is - I’m not a risk-taker. Even in 2023 if there was an opportunity to make $5,000 in a low risk situation versus $400,000 in a high risk situation, I’m going to go with the low risk option. That’s just how I am. Part of that has to do with wanting to live. I don’t want to die (the stakes in No Sudden Move are very very dangerous). The other part of my non-risk taking personality has to do with me being a worker bee. A lot of people like to say they’re a “boss” or a shot-caller because they took out a PPP loan or started a small business. But not me. Take my work record. I have no interest in working for myself or being my own boss. I’m a salary guy. A lot of folks won’t admit this but my way of thinking represents a nice-sized majority of people in this world which is essentially what the film is about - giving “regular” folks crumbs to do the dirty work to get someone else rich. This isn’t a revelation. That’s the way of the world.
At first glance, No Sudden Move is a crime caper. Beneath that surface it’s a light commentary on the racial tension/divide in 1950’s Detroit. And beyond that it’s about regular folks being used as pawns and being happy to get scraps (like Goynes). These days any movie about money is going to be dissected as some kind of commentary on capitalism but in the case of No Sudden Move it’s truly warranted (the heavy-handed final scene/climax of the movie just solidifies this).

This would make a nice double feature with Army Of The Dead in that both films are semi-recent stories of pawns (that don’t necessarily know they’re pawns) used to carry out a mission with ulterior motives that goes horribly wrong. In both No Sudden Move and Army Of The Dead, the main characters/pawns think they’re getting a good deal when they’re really just getting crumbs at the end of the day.

Both films even have the pawns playing each other…

Army Of The Dead / No Sudden Move

No Sudden Move is set in Detroit so the name “Goynes” had to be a nod to the Michigan crime writer Donald Goines. The intentional slight change in the spelling of the name has been done before. In Nicolas Refn’s Fear X, the main character, Harry Cain, is a nod to Orson Welles’ characters in both Citizen Kane (Charles Foster Kane) and The Third Man (Harry Lime). Refn just changed the spelling of Cane.

This is also wouldn’t be last time Refn tipped his hat to Welles…

Mr Arkadin / Drive

Any Soderbergh heist movie will draw comparison to the Ocean’s films but if you’re familiar with his (large) body of work, you might be reminded of something like his under-appreciated The Underneath.
The end of No Sudden Move is actually a huge nod to The Underneath (it isn't shot for shot identical but both movies end with the femme fatale thinking they're getting away with the loot only to have their plan thwarted. 

Actually maybe it's time for me to revisit that...


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